He was a large, powerful man, of that rugged build and hairy aspect that might have suggested the idea that he would be difficult to kill. He was a fair man, with red hair, and a deeply sun-burned face, on which jovial good humor sat almost perpetually enthroned. At the moment when we introduce him to the reader, however, that expression happened to be modified in consequence of his having laid him down to sleep in a sprawling manner on his back—the place as well as the position being, apparently, one of studied discomfort. His legs lay over the heel of the bowsprit, his big body reposed on a confused heap of blocks and cordage, and his neck rested on the stock of an anchor so that his head hung down over it, presenting the face to view with the large mouth wide open, in an upside-down position. The man was evidently on the verge of choking, but, being a strong man, and a rugged man, and a healthy man, he did not care. He seemed to prefer choking to the trouble of rousing himself and improving his position.
How long he would have lain in this state of felicity it is impossible to say, for his slumbers were rudely interrupted by a slight lurch of the schooner, which caused the blocks and cordage attached to the sheet of the jib to sweep slowly, but with rasping asperity, across his face. Any ordinary man would have been seriously damaged—at least in appearance—by such an accident; but this particular sea-dog was tough in the skin,—he was only awakened by it—nothing more. He yawned, raised himself lazily, and gazed round with that vacant stare of unreasonable surprise which is common to man on passing from a state of somnolence to that of wakefulness.
Gradually the expression of habitual good-humor settled on his visage, as he looked from one to another of his sleeping comrades, and at last, with a bland smile, he broke forth into the following soliloquy:
“Wot a goose, wot a grampus you’ve bin, John Bumpus: firstly, for goin’ to sea; secondly, for remainin’ at sea; thirdly, for not forsakin’ the sea; fourthly, for bein’ worried about it at all, now that you’ve made up your mind to retire from the sea; and fifthly—”
Here John Bumpus paused as if to meditate on the full depth and meaning of these polite remarks, or to invent some new and powerful expression wherewith to deliver his fifth head. His mental efforts seemed to fail, however; for, instead of concluding the sentence, he hummed the following lines, which, we may suppose, were expressive of his feelings, as well as his intentions:—
“So good-by to the mighty
And adoo to the rollin’ sea.
For it’s nobody has no notion
Wot a grief it has bin to me.”
“Ease off the sheets and square the topsail yards,” was at that moment said, or rather murmured, by a bass voice so deep and rich that, although scarcely raised above a whisper, it was distinctly heard over the whole deck.